FIVE MONTHS after the Bombay High Court converted the death sentence of two rape and murder convicts into life imprisonment, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women has written to the Chief Justice of India to take suo motu cognizance of the matter while demanding a death penalty for the convicts. The woman’s family also hoped that the HC order would be reversed and the convicts hanged.
The 22-year-old BPO employee was abducted, raped and murdered in Pune in 2007 by two persons, of whom one was a taxi driver. Driver Purushottam Borate, hired by the BPO, was taking the woman to her office from home for the night shift when he, along with his friend Pradeep Kokade, raped and brutally murdered her.
In 2012, the HC upheld the death penalty awarded by the Pune sessions court. In 2015, the Supreme Court also upheld the death penalty. A mercy plea to the Maharashtra Governor and later the President was rejected.
While the death sentence was to be carried out within 90 days, the duo approached the HC in 2019, claiming violation of right to life and that there was a delay of 1,507 days (four years) in executing the sentence. In July, the HC commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment of 35 years, observing that the execution was delayed without any reason.
The women commission has observed that commuting death penalty into life imprisonment only on the ground of delay is injustice to the victim. In the letter, dated December 10, it has stated that in the past, only SC had commuted death sentences after rejection of mercy pleas and not the HC.
The commission also requested the SC to convert the letter into a petition and recall the HC order. “This HC order is a violation of women’s rights,” it stated.
“The rape and murder in village near Pune was brutal. Even the President of India had rejected the mercy plea. The death sentence has only been converted into life imprisonment due to delay. This is injustice to the victim and her family. Such a ghastly crime must only be responded with death,” Vijaya Rahatkar, the chairperson of commission, said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the woman’s brother-in-law said, “Within a few days of the HC order, my wife had written to both the state and national women commissions as well as then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, urging that steps be taken to ensure that the convicts do not receive any mercy. We are happy that the state women commission has written to the Chief Justice of India. We sincerely hope that the SC restores the death penalty in the case. It was a premeditated, inhuman and brutal act and they do not deserve any mercy.”
“Restoration of the death penalty is important not just for this particular case but it will also send a message that the existing system works. Since the HC judgment in July, there have been several unfortunate cases of crime against women across India, which have put to test our judicial system. The reversal of the HC order will help restore faith in the system,” he added.
In its March 2012 order, the Pune sessions court had said, “Pune is an IT hub. After graduation, the victim, a young woman, had joined IT-BPO sector. The cab driver betrayed her trust as she was under the impression that she will be reaching office. However, they took her far from office and home and committed this heinous crime with extreme brutality. This incident had virtually thrown safety of working women out of gear. IT-BPO is a promising career. Family members send their daughters to work in BPOs because they are assured of their safety by the company. This incident had sent shockwaves throughout the city. especially among working women.”
Probe in the case had revealed that on the night of the incident, Borate and Kokade had picked up the woman in the office cab at 10 pm for her night shift. It had come to light she was talking on phone with her friend and did not realise where they were headed. Around 11 pm, the friend she was speaking to heard her ask the driver why had he stopped the car. Following this, the phone was disconnected and became unreachable.
Her body was found next day near a village. Her veins had been cut with a knife and she was strangulated with a dupatta. The duo had smashed her head with stones till she died, the postmortem report had stated.